A. Sherrod Blakely's Truth And Rumors

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A. Sherrod Blakely's Truth And Rumors

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON During a rare Boston Celtics practice recently, there was a familiar face on the floor: Delonte West.

When West returns to action and all indications are that it will be sometime next month the Celtics will gradually phase him in.

But it won't be long before he's playing his usual minutes.

When that happens, somebody's minutes are going to be cut.

And when you look at this Celtics' roster, it's quite obvious that the most likely candidate is Nate Robinson.

He did a solid job early on filling in for Rajon Rondo as a starter.

But Robinson's play has taken a step back in recent weeks, making it more likely that West will eventually become a backup to Rondo and, potentially, Ray Allen.

At 6-foot-3, West gives the Celtics a bigger player who is also more versatile.

West, who suffered a broken right wrist injury on Nov. 24, can play both guard positions. And depending on the opponent and the lineup on the floor, he could give the C's some minutes at the small forward position as well.

But aside from his physical attributes, West provides a certain toughness to the C's bench that's unmatched among Boston's backups.

West getting minutes over Robinson should not be viewed as Robinson being a bad player or anything like that.

Actually, it says more about the C's depth than it does about Robinson.

THE BIG FOUR

The All-Star Game will be here in a couple weeks, and the Boston Celtics are sure to be well represented.

Boston should lead all teams with at least four players selected.

If you've paid attention to the Eastern Conference this season, it's clear Rajon Rondo has established himself as one of the NBA's top point guards.

To the casual fan, any top-five list of point guards this season has to include Rondo, who is the NBA's assists leader with 12.9 per game.

He'll also be joined by Kevin Garnett, who has regained his '08 form. He missed nine games because of a muscle strain in his lower right leg, but has returned to action and appears well on his way to getting back to where he was this season prior to the injury.

Paul Pierce is a definite All-Star this season. In fact, one can argue that of all the seasons Pierce has been named to the All-Star team, this might be his most impressive season.

His scoring average doesn't overwhelm you.

But when you look at how efficient he has been, which is rare for a high-volume shooter so advanced into their career, there's no doubt he has been one of the top two or three small forwards in the East this season.

And last but certainly not least, you have Ray Allen.

At 35 years old, it's amazing how well Allen has played in helping lead the Celtics to the best record in the Eastern Conference.

Like Pierce, Allen has enjoyed a renaissance of sorts this season.

On track to become the NBA's all-time leader in 3-pointers made this season, Allen is also shooting a career-high 45.3 percent from 3-point range.

When you look at what they've done, coupled with the Celtics success this season, it's a no-brainer.

Boston's Big Four will be all-stars next month.

FLIP (THE SWITCH) MODE?

After a recent loss at Washington, it brought back memories of last season when there were far too many losses to bad teams by Boston.

When the season ended, C's players bemoaned how those setbacks cost them home-court advantage throughout most of the playoffs, including the NBA Finals.

This season, 5 of the C's 10 losses have been to teams at or below-.500.

But there is a difference with this year.

Those losses, if anything, seem to re-focus this team on what they have to do in order to be successful.

Following a loss to Cleveland early in the season, Boston reeled off five straight wins.

And after a one-point loss at Toronto, the C's got Jalapeo-hot by winning 14 straight.

The Celtics had two sets of back-to-back losses, and ran off winning streaks of five and four games, respectively.

So as disappointing as it might have seemed to lose to the woeful Wizards, just remember.

Such losses should not be seen as trouble.

Instead, they serve as a heads-up that the C's are about to start rolling over teams and a nice winning streak is coming.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

WATCH: Celtics vs. Pistons

WATCH: Celtics vs. Pistons

Tune into CSN to watch the Celtics play the Raptors in Toronto. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by McDonald's on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

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Celtics-Pistons preview: C's need to defend their top-four spot in East

Celtics-Pistons preview: C's need to defend their top-four spot in East

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- On Friday night, Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan absolutely torched the Boston Celtics. The game before that, it was Chicago’s Jimmy Butler giving the Celtics major fits with a barrage of baskets. 

Both were All-Star starters this year, the kind of lofty status that helps explain how the Celtics were so defensively-challenged in their efforts in limiting them.

Detroit doesn’t have a bona fide high-scoring perimeter star like those other teams, but don’t think for a minute that tonight’s game will be a breeze for the Celtics. Boston (37-21) comes in having lost two in a row to Chicago and Toronto, respectively. The Raptors loss was especially painful because it assured the Raptors would get the higher seed in the playoffs if these two teams finished with an identical record. 

Boston hopes to secure an edge over the Pistons tonight with a victory that will give them the season series, three games to one. While it may seem a bit early to get too caught up in tie-breakers and their importance, the last thing Boston wants is to finish the regular season tied with one or more teams, and wind up with the lower seed because they lost the head-to-head series. 

“You hear people say every game counts; it’s true,” Boston’s Amir Johnson told CSNNE.com. “We need to win as many games as we can because you never know which game could be the difference between having home court or not.”

If Boston continues to find ways to win and finish with a tie-free, top-four finish in the East, they will begin the playoffs at the TD Garden for the first time under fourth-year coach Brad Stevens.

Meanwhile the Pistons are currently eighth in the East and, like the Celtics, they too opted to stand pat at the trade deadline. And like Boston, they are looking for growth from within as they try to make their way up the Eastern Conference standings. 

“We’re not real happy with how we’ve played up to this point overall,” said Stan Van Gundy, the Pistons’ president of basketball operations and head coach. “But we still have a young group. As much as you would like the progress to be steadily uphill, it’s not always. That doesn’t mean you lose faith in your guys. At the end of the day, we ended up standing pat, which is pretty much what we expected to do.”

One of Boston’s biggest concerns coming into the game will be rebounding. It was among the many factors contributing to Boston’s loss on Friday. But as much as execution at both ends of the floor will be a factor, effort will be just as vital if not more, to the success of the Celtics in the playoffs. There were plenty of reasons as to why Boston lost on Friday night, with effort being near the top of the list. 

“They played harder than us,” said Celtics forward Jae Crowder. 

And that was surprising when you consider what was at stake – a chance to push their lead over Toronto to five games with a couple dozen to go.

Rookie forward Jaylen Brown has heard all the reasons and explanations as to why the Celtics have hit a mini-hiccup following back-to-back losses. And he has also heard how Boston blew a golden opportunity to beat Toronto with Raptors all-star Kyle Lowry still out. 

“We didn’t have one of our key guys, either,” said Brown, referring to Avery Bradley still being out with a foot injury. So it’s basketball at the end of the day. It doesn’t’ matter who is on the floor. You have to do your job; we just have to do our job.”